Days after hundreds of football players and fans hit the street demanding a permanent football ground in Guwahati, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday claimed that a "misunderstanding" has led to this situation. Sarma said the Nehru Stadium has been taken temporarily by the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) for the Ranji Trophy matches.
"The ACA took the Nehru Stadium for 15 days for the Ranji Trophy. When national level games take place, one sport has to give space to the other. I think this entire situation has cropped up due to misunderstanding," he told reporters.
The chief minister said he has already spoken to authorities concerned and asked the Director of Sports to give space to football at Nehru Stadium after the Ranji Trophy matches are over. Ranji Trophy matches are happening at two places in Guwahati -- ACA Stadium in Barsapara and Nehru Stadium in Ulubari -- between February 17 and March 6.
Over 500 footballers, including national players, and fans from across the state had taken part in a protest rally in the capital city on February 20 demanding that at least a couple of fields be allowed for playing football in Guwahati. Former India football captain Baichung Bhutia too lent his support to the demand for football grounds in Assam's largest city Guwahati and urged the state government to look into the matter soon.
Assam Football Association (AFA) Secretary Hemendranath Brahma had said the Association does not have any field of its own, though it has been urging the government for years. He claimed that the Association had submitted a list of 10 sites in and around Guwahati to the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare for developing them as football grounds.